On her vacation to the British Virgin Islands this summer, Peggy Rubin wasn't lounging on the beach. She was captaining a 27-foot sailboat, having just completed her navigation certification.

"I like being in the position of leader," Rubin says. "When my dad was teaching me to drive, one of the things he said to me was 'Now don't be the typical female driver. When you come to a stop sign, see what the women do. They always stop and wait on the other cars to go. Learn the rules of the road. You get there first, or you're on the right, you go. You lead,' " she recounts. "And that has stuck with me through the rest of my life. If you know what you are doing and you have the opportunity to lead, be sure that you do."

Rubin's father, an electrical engineer, encouraged her love of math and suggested a career in actuarial science. Calling the first actuarial firm in the phone book, Rubin reached a female actuary who recommended Georgia State's actuarial program. She soon transferred there, and took a secretarial job at Coopers & Lybrand, which led to an actuarial internship and then a job, where she worked on mergers, acquisitions and financial reporting.

There were few women in the field, but Rubin says she never felt discriminated against, even as she shaped her career around family life. In 1978, for example, Coopers & Lybrand arranged for her to work from home and travel with her infant son.

"It was way ahead of its time," Rubin says. But when her second child was born, she took a position locally, as chief actuary with a client, Kennesaw Life Insurance, where she worked three days per week, plus nights and weekends at year-end to finish financial statements.

From there, Rubin navigated to Southern Educators, which she found while researching firms that spent money on consultant actuaries and didn't have any in-house. There she handled financial statements, cash-flow testing and product development, all during her children's school hours. She later worked on the company's valuation and acquisition by United Insurance Company, then ran its life division. It was the first time since her son's birth that she worked full-time in the office. Her division was acquired by Columbian Financial Group in 2003.

"CFG has been on a merger track for a number of years," she says, and now has six policy admin systems and six ways of doing business. "And each thinks their way is the correct way, of course," she laughs. Now she's converting them to one new policy administration system, a project expected to take three to five years.

"We are trying to make ourselves easier to do business with for the agents, and we are not there yet," she says. But they have made great progress, introducing collaborative tools, online meetings, webinars and Wikis for more than 300 users in four locations and 40,000 independent agents.

Rubin also led the implementations of a management information system that reduced per-policy costs by 17 percent over four years; a strategic plan resulting in 20-percent growth in new premium for three consecutive years and a doubling of production over five years. She also oversaw the due diligence and change management for five mergers and has created a best practices unit, with representatives from each office, to discuss and agree on terminology, business processes and determine how the company will conduct business in the future.

WIL judges were impressed with Rubin's leadership and emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, which has improved sales, production and operations. By getting everyone onboard, she is able to convert strategic decisions into actionable and fruitful plans. This is exemplified by her recent initiative to explore the deployment of Six Sigma at CFG, and dramatically improving the company's performance by integrating the merged entities onto a single platform. As a result, employees enjoy a more efficient use of their time and a faster response to market changes.

Rubin understands the challenge of navigating motherhood, family and career, and makes an effort to be flexible, as she was afforded that same opportunity. "Just get the job done. You could do it at 9 p.m. if that works for you."

Number of years in the industry: 36

Number of direct reports: 4

Columbian Mutual Life Insurance's total written premium: $237 million

Nominated by: Sapiens

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